Eureka Sweeps Blackburn in Home Opener

Photo courtesy of Michelle Curl.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Curl.

EUREKA — With a sweep over St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference foe Blackburn on Saturday at Sweitzer Field, the Eureka softball team extended a pair of encouraging streaks.

It marked the Red Devils' fifth straight year of notching a sweep in its home opener, and their third straight year of scoring a sweep in their first SLIAC series.

It was also the second year in a row EC made it happen against Blackburn.

First, the Red Devils picked up their first W of the season in a 7-2 victory. Then, they came from behind and pulled away from the Beavers in a 13-5 win that ended in the fifth inning due to the run rule.

With the win, EC moved up to .500 (2-2) after dropping two at North Central on Friday. Blackburn fell to 2-11 and 0-4 in the SLIAC.

Game 1: Eureka 7, Blackburn 2

Eureka junior starting pitcher Erin Smith (Dunlap, Ill./Dunlap) snagged her first win of the season after allowing two runs on four hits, walking none and striking out six in seven innings. Seventy-one of the 95 pitches she tossed were strikes.

Blackburn scored the first run of the game in the first inning after a leadoff double by Megan Moseley led to an RBI groundout by Halle Fransen.

However, it didn't take long for the Red Devils to answer. On the team's first at-bat of the game, freshman Raelyn Payne (Lexington, Ill./Lexington) smashed a solo shot over the left-field fence, recording the first home run of her career and putting the Red Devils on the board.

Two singles and two groundouts later, Sydney Shubert (Canton, Ill./Canton) crossed the plate and gave EC the lead for good.

The Red Devils added two more runs in the third on a two-run double by Morgan Ledbetter (Hanna City, Ill./Elmwood), two more in the fourth on a two-run single by Morgan Osborn (Washington, Ill./Washington) and one more in the sixth. After Blackburn's Brooke Daniels homered in the top half, EC got it back with an RBI double down the left-field line by Allison Cagley (Fairbury, Ill./Prairie Central).

Junior transfers Shubert and Ledbetter both went 3-for-3 in their first home game as a Red Devil. Shubert, who came from Heartland Community College, also scored three runs and walked once. Ledbetter, who was previously at Culver-Stockton, doubled twice and had two RBIs.Payne added a double and a walk to go with her leadoff blast, while Osborn also contributed a double.

Before the game, former longtime EC coach Karen Sweitzer threw a ceremonial first pitch. It was the Red Devils' first home game since field was dedicated to her last fall. Sweitzer was the head coach of the EC softball program from 1991 until 2008 and was the winner of 310 games, the most by a female head coach in the history of the institution. The Red Devils earned their first NCAA Division III Tournament bid in school history under Sweitzer's guidance when EC went 21-15 in 2002 and received an at-large bid to the Bloomington, Ill. regional. She remains the only female head coach to take a Eureka College team to the national postseason.

Game 2: Eureka 13, Blackburn 5 (5 innings)

After a rocky first inning that included four runs on one hit, one hit batsman and four walks, Eureka got back on track with a five-run rally in the bottom half.

The Red Devils notched three hits and took advantage of three Blackburn errors to gain the upper hand. Ledbetter and Adrianna Zeman (La Salle, Ill./La Salle-Peru) each had RBI singles.

The team proceeded to score 1-3 runs in each of the next four innings, with Cagley's three-run dinger to left field in the fifth finally ending it.

It was the sophomore's first career home run as a Red Devil, and the team's third long ball of the day. Osborn hammered a three-run shot of her own to left-center in the third inning.

Shubert and freshmen Faith Bachtold (Fairbury, Ill./Prairie Central) and Sidney Wightman (Waterloo, Ill./ Gibault Catholic) all had two hits apiece in the win.

Wightman, who only allowed one hit and one walk in 4 1/3 innings of work against North Central on Friday, earned the first win of her career in the circle. The freshman limited the Beavers to one run on three hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings of work, and struck out two.

Her mother, Donita Williams Wightman, was a 1993 EC graduate and is a member of the EC Hall of Fame. She currently ranks third all-time in Eureka pitching victories and is one of only three pitchers in program history to record at least 40 wins.

The Red Devils will next host Rockford in a doubleheader at Sweitzer Field on Tuesday at 2 p.m.